KUCHING: Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) Sarawak has expressed concern on the capability of Kuching International Airport (KIA) to cater to more passengers, following the recent announcement of the new Jakarta-Kuching route.
Matta Sarawak chairman Oscar Choo said while the new route would have a positive impact on medical tourism and position Kuching as an umrah gateway, Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB) must focus on upgrading not just KIA, but all airports in the state.
“Our only concern, as always, is on the capability of our Kuching International Airport to cater to more passengers and this requires immediate attention from MAHB,” he told The Borneo Post yesterday in commenting on the new route.
He said airport facilities in the state had been poorly maintained and departure hall procedures would need to be revamped.
“Passengers using the international departure hall do not have access to the F&B (food and beverage) outlets and to the shops, which are in the domestic halls,” he lamented.
Choo pointed out more than half of the retail space at local airports had not been taken up.
He regarded shops as important as ‘they give life to airports’ and passengers would normally make last minute purchases while waiting to board their flights.
He also said airport shops could play a role in boosting the economy and creating more tourism receipts.
“Basically, the entire Kuching International Airport requires a major facelift if we wanted to attract more direct flights and remain competitive in the region.
“Although we are a secondtier destination, MAHB should not take us for granted, as our airports play an important role since Sarawak has proven over the years that it is an important destination for tourism, business, and major events,” he added.
Choo said as the tourism industry was recovering at a healthy rate, it was crucial that points of entry and exit in Sarawak would give a good first and memorable last impression for all travellers.
Last Thursday, Indonesia AirAsia announced the new route connecting Jakarta and Kuching, commencing this June 15.
In a statement, AirAsia said Jakarta would be the second city in Asean to be connected with Sarawak by the low-cost airline.
Presently, AirAsia Malaysia flies between Singapore and three cities in Sarawak namely Kuching, Miri, and Sibu, giving the airline the widest network between Singapore and Sarawak.
This is on top of its domestic services within Sarawak as well as to Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah.
On Sunday, Minister of Transport Sarawak Dato Sri Lee Kim Shin said direct connectivity between Jakarta and Kuching would enhance the la er as a hub connecting Sarawak and Sabah to Java island, where Jakarta is the main gateway. He said improved connectivity between Jakarta and Kuching could also lead to an increase in trade, tourism, and investment between Indonesia and Sarawak.
Along with expanded air connectivity from Kuching, Lee said there was an urgent need to improve aviation transportation infrastructure in Sarawak, including airport facilities and air traffic control systems.
The Borneo Post